Faith & Mike's Master Bathroom: The Unexpectedly Inexpensive Heated Floor

Renovation Diary

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Installing tile over the heated floor in the bathroom.

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Name: Faith and Mike
Type of Project: Master Bathroom Creation
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Type of building: 1920s, multi-level, single family home

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

Most of the decisions in our bathroom project were fairly straightforward, but there was one nagging question in the renovation that made me nervous. How were we going to heat the bathroom? Here's how that question led to the one of the more surprisingly inexpensive (and completely awesome) decisions of our renovation. 

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This box held the roll of electric mat that now heats our bathroom floors. 

When we bought the house it didn't have any ductwork, and the house was heated by radiators. We love radiant heating, and the boiler was new, so we decided to keep the radiators instead of installing forced-air heating. (We did install ducts and air-conditioning.) 

But the bathroom was created out of a former back porch that didn't have a radiator, which means there were no pipes running to that area for heating. There wasn't really room in the bathroom to install a floor radiator, and we quickly realized that it was going to be quite expensive to run pipes and install a towel heater radiator big enough to heat the whole space. 

Now, I am a huge fan of underfloor heating. We've stayed in some hotels and vacation apartments that had it in the bathroom, and I loved how comfortable and efficient it was. Warm floors under your feet make you feel so toasty, even when the heat isn't set very high. I had a wistful hope that we could do underfloor heating in the bathroom, but I was afraid it wouldn't fit in the budget. 

But I quickly discovered, to my delight, that underfloor heating supplies are actually quite inexpensive, in the grand scheme of things. Most underfloor heating is electric (as opposed to hydronic) and it's done by laying a wire or mat underneath the tiles. This is considered a very straightforward job by most tile professionals: they simply lay the mat in the thinset. An electrician runs an extra circuit, and they hook it up to the mat. 

We ended up getting our supplies from The Tile Shop (they donated tile to this project, but we bought the mat and thermostat ourselves). Here's what we got: 

Installation was easy for our contractor, and we're pretty delighted with having toasty warm floors. I keep saying it was one of the best decisions we made in the renovation, and such good value. When you're spending several thousand dollars on a bathroom renovation, dedicating just $400 to a luxury perk like heated floors is a really good deal, in my mind. 

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The penny round tile floors, installed and grouted over the electric heating mat.

The BTU calculations indicated that the heated floors should be enough to keep our bathroom warm enough in the wintertime, but we felt a little nervous about chancing it. So we also installed a sleek electric heating panel (see Gregory's review of the Envi here). But the floors and the radiator around the corner in our bedroom have kept the bathroom so warm that we've barely used the electric heater. 

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for #10 of Faith and Mike's Diary.

(Images: Faith Durand)

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Renovation Diary: Faith & Mike's Master Bathroom

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